This isn't the real America
By Jimmy Carter
Angeles Times" -- -- IN RECENT YEARS, I have become
increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that
now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous
administrations, Democratic and Republican.
These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic
and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human
Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens
with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs
with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.
At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence
from the restraints of international organizations and have
disavowed long-standing global agreements — including agreements on
nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international
system of justice.
Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority
unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a
policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other
nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other
purposes. When there are serious differences with other nations, we
brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct
discussions to resolve disputes.
Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by top U.S.
leaders to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.
These revolutionary policies have been orchestrated by those who
believe that our nation's tremendous power and influence should not
be internationally constrained. Even with our troops involved in
combat and America facing the threat of additional terrorist
attacks, our declaration of "You are either with us or against us!"
has replaced the forming of alliances based on a clear comprehension
of mutual interests, including the threat of terrorism.
Another disturbing realization is that, unlike during other times of
national crisis, the burden of conflict is now concentrated
exclusively on the few heroic men and women sent back repeatedly to
fight in the quagmire of Iraq. The rest of our nation has not been
asked to make any sacrifice, and every effort has been made to
conceal or minimize public awareness of casualties.
Instead of cherishing our role as the great champion of human
rights, we now find civil liberties and personal privacy grossly
violated under some extreme provisions of the Patriot Act.
Of even greater concern is that the U.S. has repudiated the Geneva
accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with
the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to
see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should
be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or
punishment" on people in U.S. custody.
Instead of reducing America's reliance on nuclear weapons and their
further proliferation, we have insisted on our right (and that of
others) to retain our arsenals, expand them, and therefore abrogate
or derogate almost all nuclear arms control agreements negotiated
during the last 50 years. We have now become a prime culprit in
global nuclear proliferation. America also has abandoned the
prohibition of "first use" of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear
nations, and is contemplating the previously condemned deployment of
weapons in space.
Protection of the environment has fallen by the wayside because of
government subservience to political pressure from the oil industry
and other powerful lobbying groups. The last five years have brought
continued lowering of pollution standards at home and almost
universal condemnation of our nation's global environmental
Our government has abandoned fiscal responsibility by unprecedented
favors to the rich, while neglecting America's working families.
Members of Congress have increased their own pay by $30,000 per year
since freezing the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour (the lowest among
I am extremely concerned by a fundamentalist shift in many houses of
worship and in government, as church and state have become
increasingly intertwined in ways previously thought unimaginable.
As the world's only superpower, America should be seen as the
unswerving champion of peace, freedom and human rights. Our country
should be the focal point around which other nations can gather to
combat threats to international security and to enhance the quality
of our common environment. We should be in the forefront of
providing human assistance to people in need.
It is time for the deep and disturbing political divisions within
our country to be substantially healed, with Americans united in a
common commitment to revive and nourish the historic political and
moral values that we have espoused during the last 230 years.
JIMMY CARTER was the 39th president of the United States. His newest
book is "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis," published
this month by Simon & Schuster.
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)